A brave three-year-old has helped launch a new initiative to help young heart patients to exercise.
Leeds-based charity Heart Research UK has created a special toolkit so that families know how much activity youngsters can safely do.
It was developed after research showed patients could be missing out on vital exercise because they are not always given clear guidance when leaving hospital on what exercise to do.
Now a pilot of the toolkit is being trialled in Leeds, and Heart Research UK hopes to raise £100,000 to roll it out across the UK.
Marking the launch at Leeds Children’s Hospital was three-year-old Riley Platts, who has had several surgeries at the hospital to correct a rare congenital heart defect, and will need further operations.
His mum Kathryn Walker, from Guiseley, Leeds, said anything that will help parents understand how active their children can be is a good thing.
“Riley is an active little boy and we know how much activity he is capable of, but it is important for parents to know what they can do so that their child can benefit from exercise that could improve their condition. It would be great if people could support this appeal.”
The initiative was developed after a study commissioned by the charity found current exercise advice given to child heart patients across the country is practically non-existent, with many families not receiving written information or specific advice, despite the positive impact that physical activity could have on their child’s condition.
Barbara Harpham, national director of Heart Research UK, said adult heart patients currently get advice on exercise given to them when they leave hospital, while children often don’t.
“These special youngsters should know that it’s good to run around, be in a team - just be active – not sit on the sidelines watching. The unique thing about this whole new approach is the personal exercise prescription signed by a medical professional,” she said.
“It gives parents, teachers and anyone caring for children with heart problems the confidence to help them live healthier, happier, longer lives.”
The launch was also backed by Yorkshire boxer Tommy Frank, who had heart surgery at the age of five.
The 21-year-old from Sheffield said: “My heart operation gave me a new lease of life.
“I had always been fairly active, but the operation has allowed me to carry on with my life. If my parents had stopped me being active and wrapped me in cotton wool I wouldn’t have got into boxing, a sport I love.”
As part of the pilot, parents will be asked how useful the information is.